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Turning Wellness from Transactional to Transformational


A worker meditating at work
Image: Prostock-studio - Alamy Stock Photo
As enterprise leaders put their heads together on how to make their company a desired place to work, many are struggling to figure out how to elevate employee wellness from a talking point to cultural differentiator.
I talked about this challenge during a recent Metrigy podcast with workplace wellness expert Laura Putnam, author of the book “Workplace Wellness That Works” and founder of wellness firm Motion Infusion (listen here). When applied to employee experience, wellness really needs to be about letting each employee become their best self and leveraging the workplace to help them along the way, Putnam shared during the podcast.
Perhaps in large part because of the Great Resignation arising out of the pandemic, many companies are starting to think about wellness less from a transactional standpoint — i.e., as a means of reducing healthcare spend — and more as a means of creating a transformational experience that makes people healthier and happier because of where they work, Putnam shared. This is a highly positive shift, she added, and here’s why:
“Give me any metric that matters to an organization, whether you’re talking about productivity, profitability, absenteeism, presenteeism, safety of the job, retention, or attraction, and I will show you how it ties to employee well-being. … Well-being done well, as in well-being that feels good to employees and to the employer, is not only good for people, but it’s good for the bottom line, and it is essential for building a high-performing team.”
Achieving success around wellness and employee experience programs requires approaching the challenge from multiple dimensions, Putnam said. Here are three quick examples Putnam shared during our conversation:
  1. Tackle mental health from a workplace, not individual, perspective – Historically, companies have tended to address mental health issues by trying to provide at-risk individuals with needed resources and assistance. Putnam advocates more of a “let’s flood the beach” approach that tackles the structural issues leading to a state of mental unwellness, particularly burnout and fatigue, overall. That’s to say, mental fatigue has less to do with an individual and more to do with pervasive issues such as work overload, unreasonable time pressures, lack of transparency, or a tolerance of toxic management.
  2. Team-care is as important as self-care – In part to help address meeting burnout but also to promote team care, Putnam suggests adding “walking meetings” to a team’s agenda. In practice, a team leader might suggest that everybody transfer a team call from laptop to mobile (or initiate on mobile, for that matter) and walk and talk for the first half of the meeting. The conversation can be lighter in nature for relationship building. Then, for the second half of the call, everybody can sit back down and discuss business. If walking meetings aren’t feasible, find another way to get creative, she said.
  3. Managers need to lead by example – Employees look to their managers as a cue for their own behavior, particularly during meetings. If managers always put themselves on mute, don’t share their video, or are multitasking during calls, employees will likely do the same. Managers must understand that they alone are “uniquely positioned within the workplace to either persuade or dissuade their team members from engaging with their well-being,” Putnam said. This is about leading by example, she added. “It’s not about being perfect. It’s about making the effort.”
Putnam has a wealth of advice on how to address wellness as part of an employee experience transformation. For a deeper dive, tune in here or listen below.